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October 2018
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Women's Day Observed in Washington DC

Washington, DC, USA - UPF-DC’s commemoration of the 100th International Women’s Day was held at The Washington Times headquarters under the theme of “Women and the World at a Turning Point” on March 30.

The program was co-sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation – DC Office and The Washington Times Foundation. Eighty guests attended; among them were Ambassadors from Albania, Fiji, Equatorial Guinea, and Angola. There were also diplomats from 18 embassies, NGO representatives, and Ambassadors for Peace.

Tomiko Duggan, Director of Public Affairs of the UPF-DC office, welcomed everyone and introduced a UPF video reporting on the UPF activities around the world in 2010.

Mrs. Seiko Lee, a renowned soprano presented three songs; "O Mio Babbino Caro" from the Puccini opera Gianni Schicchi, "Ave Maria" by Caccini, and "A Song of Peace" by Sibelius. The third song was offered for the people of Japan who suffered great loss of loved ones, homes, livelihood, and being forced to live in shelters with few amenities.

Mrs. Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave was the first speaker. She is a poet who published her first book, Healing Light: 30 Messages of Love, Hope and Courage, in an effort to reach out to and comfort the families who suffered unspeakable tragedy after the attacks on 9/11. She was inspired to create her poetry sometimes at 3:00 am, 4:00 am, or 5:00 am during her sleepless nights in sorrow for the victims of 9/11. She said her prayer was answered when Mr. John Whitehead, Chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Cooperation, purchased 4,000 copies of her book to give it to all 9/11 families who lost their loves ones, accompanied by personal note from him.

Her kind and compassionate words moved the hearts of the audience. She concluded with the words “When we follow what God wants us to do, a path will open up to lead us on our way. What is important is to make a commitment to your personal prayer and see the commitment through. I believe that we are here to learn to be better and be led to a better world.”

The third speaker, Ambassador Cindy L. Courville, called for “celebrating diversity of all women coming together with what we can bring to the table for positive changes. We have to define what peace is and how we want to achieve it.” The former US Ambassador to the African Union is a policy-maker and strategic thinker, recognizing that each speaker brought a different approach to the topic. She called upon the audience to make states and governments to be responsible for positive changes and move forward for peace. She added that when tragedy strikes humanity, we must intervene and not look the other way. She said she is not advocating violence for violence sake, but she for saving others from being tortured or killed.

She said it was a privilege to work in the continent of Africa. “There are multiple strategies and challenges, yet we are all responsible for each other.” She added that the challenges are to engage the souls, hearts, and minds of the people in order to bring about positive changes. She said she is the kind of person who looks at a glass with some water in it and calls it half full, rather than half empty. She is always looking for improvement and sees nothing but hope in Africa, where people are changing and creating a positive outcome despite the financial difficulties.

She said, “I want to see Seiko Lee go around the world and sing to calm down people’s hearts. All of us—men and women—have important roles and need to act together and make the changes we want to achieve a reality. It is important that each of us—not only women who appear in newspapers or hold public offices—contributes in our own way. We should act collectively for positive changes.”

She did not distinguish between women’s issues and men’s issues: “It is all our issues.” She added, “We have come together, and we have to be able to agree to disagree. We are not identical twins. Celebrating diversity as women, celebrating diversity as men, and celebrating being human beings will enable us to move forward in a peaceful way,” she concluded.

Following the three speakers, Mrs. Genie Kagawa, Assistant Director of UPF Office of UN Relations, presented certificates to five new Ambassadors for Peace. Then Susan Fefferman asked 12 guests to come to the stage to read the words of women who shaped our world. Following Seiko Lee’s "Song of Peace" for the people of Japan, donations for Japan were collected. The program ended with a joyful and peaceful atmosphere.

H.E. Gilbert Galanxhi, Ambassador of Albania to the USA, and H.E. Winston Thompson, Ambassador of Fiji to the USA, said they were deeply inspired to be appointed Ambassadors for Peace. Ms. Ligia Reid, Cultural Attache from the Embassy of the Dominican Republic, praised the meeting as the best she had ever attended.

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